Philippines lays groundwork for the return of South Koreans

South Koreans, the perennial biggest inbound market of the Philippines, are interested to travel again to the destination, as gleaned from results of a month-long pre-selling of tour products.

The Online Pre-Booking Campaign from November 5 to December 4, 2021, initiated by the Department of Tourism (DoT) in tandem with seven major travel agencies in South Korea, listed fresh tour products in popular destinations pre-pandemic: Bohol, Boracay, Cebu, Clark and Manila.

Beach holidays and diving main tourist draws for South Koreans visiting the Philippines pre-pandemic; a group of South Korean tourists preparing to go diving in Boracay pictured

Maria Corazon Jorda-Apo, tourism director South Korea, said 3,707 bookings were made and 8,940 enquiries received during the campaign. “One agent even had several incentive groups departing in 2022; with 2,013 passengers in total,” she revealed.

Jorda-Apo told TTG Asia that while the volume of bookings was “insignificant” compared to pre-pandemic, the number of bookings and enquiries made while Philippine borders are still shut demonstrated encouraging interest from the market.

“For us, this is a very good indicator and will somehow help us in jumpstarting travel when restrictions are lifted,” she said.

Under the Online Pre-Booking Campaign, which Jorda-Apo intends to repeat this year, tour packages (excluding airline tickets) are valid for one year after the start of flights to the destination, while other suppliers have included DOT-established safety protocols and compulsory PCR tests upon arrival.

Jorda-Apo said the packages were priced more attractively than pre-pandemic, and the destinations were selected by South Korean tour operators based on their popularity before the travel freeze.

For instance, South Korean agents expect Boracay to attract younger travellers when access returns, as the destination has been popular among this segment before and even during the pandemic.

She added that pre-pandemic, South Koreans visited the Philippines mainly for beach holidays, weekend getaways, diving, learning English as a second language, and golfing, especially in winter. Families with children, couples and millennials with their friends/work associates came to enjoy natural attractions, top hotels and resorts, and shopping facilities.

Commenting on the quarantine-free travel bubble being looked into between South Korea and the Philippines, possibly benefitting Bohol, Jorda-Apo said airlines and charterers were still waiting for the Omicron wave to pass. With stability, charterers and airlines will return to destinations other than Manila.

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